Music festival to celebrate 20th anniversary of performing arts center

The FIU Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Raffaele Ponti take a selfie during rehearsals the week before the opening of the 2016 FIU Music Festival

The FIU Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Raffaele Ponti take a selfie during rehearsals the week before the opening of the 2016 FIU Music Festival

Alumnus and internationally known Latin jazz sensation Tony Succar will take the stage along with international artist Jon Secada for a night of Latin jazz at the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center (WPAC) Oct. 8.

The performance is one of 12 concerts scheduled for the School of Music’s acclaimed, annual music festival – brought back to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the WPAC.

This year the festival will run from Oct. 5 through 28, and will feature some of the most dazzling names in the music industry: Latin Grammy winner Gabriela Montero and world renown FIU Artists-in-Residence violinist Robert Davidovici and pianist Kemal Gekic, just to name a few.

From classical music to jazz, the festival offers something for everyone and truly has an international component, with artists representing countries from all over the world – including places like Mexico, Cuba and Turkey.

Students will perform throughout the festival during various concerts – playing alongside international artists, including some of their professors. Music business students will be managing the festival in addition to performing. And, for the icing on the cake, students will be able to meet many of the guest artists during master classes.

“The purpose of the music festival is to provide excellence for our students,” says Karen Fuller, the artistic director of the festival. “For them to have the opportunity to rehearse and to perform with the best musicians in the world, right here at FIU, and to enhance their academic learning and their performance as musicians. It’s the opportunity to mix our talents with recognized, excellent musicians around the world.”

Robert Dundas, the director of the School of Music, says the opportunity is one that can change a student’s life.

“It’s extremely important that our students be able to interact and rub elbows and experience firsthand the work and performances of international artists,” Dundas says.

He recalls how his own experiences in such performances as a student helped him grow as a musician, and he’s seen the same kind of impact in his students.

“They get to see these artists perform,” he says. “They get to meet them privately while they are in residence. They get to hear how these artists go about making music. And they give insight into the students on how to improve. Not only is it inspiring, but it is also a window into how the students can do their own work and gives them some perspective on what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve.”                                          

Fuller says that having students perform in festivals like this and having them perform particular repertoires – performance selections – are strategic choices designed to build essential skills for music students to be competitive in their field – and to land jobs after graduation.

“Festivals have evolved all across the country. There’s a specific skill in auditioning for mostly summer festivals,” Fuller explains. “We’re offering our students the marketability to understand what it’s like to work at a festival. This is preparing them for a job and to be the best they can be as a musician. This is their laboratory, this is where they learn – on the stage.”

Just a few of the concerts to watch for:

  • The opening night will feature classical music performances by FIU Symphony Orchestra, Choirs, Marching Band and Wind Ensemble as well as Artist-in-Residence Robert Davidovici and a special appearance by pianist Kemal Gekic. Newly-appointed conductor Raffaele Livio Ponti will conduct the performances Oct. 5.
  • Succar will be performing with Secada during a Latin jazz night Oct. 8.
  • FIU Wind Ensemble and Women’s Chorus will be performing four world premieres – pieces that will be played on FIU’s stage for the first time anywhere Oct. 8.
  • Gabriela Montero will perform piano masterpieces, original works and improvisations Oct. 14.
  • South Florida favorites Roberto Diaz and Alberto Diaz will perform with FIU’s Ensemble-in-Residence the Amernet String Quartet Oct. 21.
  • Jazz vocalist Lisanne Lyons will share the stage with Jim Hacker and the FIU Jazz Big Band Oct. 25.
  • On the final day of the festival, Turkish pianist Hande Dalkilic and FIU faculty guitarist Mesut Ozgen will perform the music of places from Istanbul to London – places along the Orient Express route – Oct. 28.

For more information on the festival and to order tickets to the concerts, click here.